Ok, before I start, I would just like to say that all that I have learned and am about to tell you I have learned through all the mistakes I’ve made. I started out with one goldfish when I was 5, which lead to a snowball effect. I now have a 55 gallon tank, which currently has convict chichlids. I’m now 17 and would like to tell other people some of the information I’ve learned so they don’t make the same mistakes. ok. Here we go.
NITRATE!!!!! – This was the beast of all problems for me. Until about a year ago, I kept goldfish in my 55. Being a busy, irresponsible teenager, I never could keep on track with water changes. The nitrate in my tank was often over 100 ppm. Yea i know. Ouch. Depending on how much you want to spend, here are some tips.
*1.* WATER CHANGES! (duh) free and proven efficient. However, only convienient for small to medium tanks. 25%…you know the drill.
1a) DON’T USE LARGE GRAVEL! most fish cannot get the food that falls in between the rocks. Buy small gravel. Wal-Mart sells fish gravel for a great price.
1b) DO NOT OVERFEED! I know you already know this, but seriously, less is better, even with piggy fish. Feed 2 small feedings a day instead…if you must.
*2* NITRATE REMOVING PRODUCTS – most of these are just a hoax, especially the cheap ones. However, AmQuel Plus is the only one that has proven itself. This is just a temporary solution and will not solve your nitrate problem.
2a)BIOSPIRA!- I tried this and i say it is a load of crap. I shut down my 55 for about 6 months and then re-filled it, added bio-spira after about a week of letting it run, and then added 3 convicts 2 days later and it still went through new tank syndrome. I ended up seeding the 55 with water and gravel from my 30 gal. Biospira is a hoax.
*3* PYTHON!!! – This is basically an extra long super siphon that attaches to your sink. Please do a search on google for more information. My only complaint is that the fittings that attach it to the sink, strip. I reccommend buying the brass fittings. It is also not cheap! Petsmart wanted $90 for the 100 foot. E-bay had them for the cheapest. Personally, if you’re going to spend that kind of money, I’d go for the next option here.
**4** AQUARI-PURE!!!!!!!!! This is a denitrator / denirtifier. This device uses vodka, yes i said vodka, which you insert into the device to grow anerobic bacteria that “eat” nitrate. IT DOES WORK! After being fed up, I saved my money and bought one. Although it is expensive, I am happy I bought one. It is the cheapest denitrifier you will find. Most others range $400+. the smallest one starts at $159. Visit the site www.aquaripure.com. I actually found out about it from and advertisement on this webstie.
My tank currently has 6 2”-3” convict chichlids and one 2” red tailed black shark. I have NO NITRATE. before I had about 30ppm of nitrate. After setting up the denitrifier, I monitored the nitrate and watched it drop. The Aquaripure cycled in less than 2 weeks. I strongly reccomend this product, especially to people who keep messy fish like goldies. If you don’t want to spend the money, there are DYI designs on the internet for denitrifiers. I personally have not tried any of them. Remember, even with a denitrifier, you still must do water changes, just not a frequently. I reccommend once every 3-4 months with the Aquaripure. There are also other denitrifiers on the market you could look into, they just cost more. Many of these use special feeds that you have to keep buying too.
**AMMONIA, pH, NITRITE, D.O.**
These I will give a more brief run through.
1) AMMONIA- Ammonia is the first stage of the nitrogen cycle. If you don’t know what the nitrogen cycle is, you should not have fish. Please research this immediatly because it is the key to sucess. Anyway, ammonia is also emitted when fish breath. The primary way to get rid of ammonia is to have a cycled tank. Bacteria will break down the ammonia into nitrite, which is next on our problem list. Other ways to get rid of ammonia are:
1a) Buy ammonia removing granules. These remove ammonia from the water and are reusable. You can either buy the pre-made packets or just buy a large container and fill nylon “socks” that you can buy at the pet store. NOT ACTUAL NYLON STOCKINGS!! It is cheaper this way.
1b) AmQuel Plus removes Ammonia efficiently.
2) NITRITE – This is the second stage in the nitrogen cycle and is normally not much of a problem in the long run. Wait for your tank to cycle and it will normally go away. AmQuel takes care of this too.
3) PH*** – Different species of fish require different levels of pH. 7 is neutral, lower is more acidic and higher is alkaline or hard. Research what pH your fish would be happiest with. To change your pH, there is a variety of methods
-3a) Use commercial products. These are normally expensive and come in small containters. If you have a small tank, these are fine. If you have a medium- large tank, keep reading.
-3b) To INCREASE pH, buy a bag or two of ground coral and put it in a nylon sock in your tank. Let it sit there until you have reached your desired pH. The more bags of coral you put in, the faster it will rise, so make sure it does not rise too quickly as to shock your fish, and make sure it doesn’t go too high. At first, the coral will leave a dust which will make your water a little cloudy, but this clears up after a day or two. Use more carbon if it really bothers you.
-3c) To DECREASE pH, add peat to your filter. I have never actually had to do this because my faucet water is acidy. Make sure you monitor the pH and if it gets too low, remove the peat.
**4** DISSOLVED OXYGEN – This is how much oxygen is in your water. Although it is not as common as the others, it is a good test to do every once in awhile. Warmer water and “dirty” water do not hold as much oxgen and the combination can be deadly to your fish and can cause them to suffocate. Make sure you have an aerator in your tank that delivers a sufficient amount of oxygen. A 5 gallon bubbler in a 55 gallon tank is not enough. Remember also that plants take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide when the aquarium light is off or it is dark.
**OTHER RANDOM TIPS
– WAL-MART IS AMAZING FOR FISH PRODUCTS!!! It is a cheaper alternitave to pet stores. Buy salt, test kits, decorations, carbon and ammonia pellets here. DO NOT BUY food (except for Hikari), medicine, or water cycling products here. Doc Wellfish Stress Zyme and TetraAqua Easy Balance DO NOT WORK. I buy all my plastic plants here. They also sell 2 varieties of live plants as seeds. Try them! They grow beautifully. The Lillies do not flower, but have gorgeous red foliage.
-BUY BULK FILTER MEDIA!! Don’t buy the pre-made filter packets that have carbon and other stuff in them. Buy the nylon “socks” and make your own. You can fit way more into them and try different combonations. They are cheaper in the long run. Use plenty of carbon and filter floss for really clear water.
-BUY QUALITY FOOD!! Remember, you get what you pay forwhen it comes to fish food. Especially stay away from Wardley and Tetra food products. They are cheap . You can tell this because the first couple ingredients are rice, wheat flour, corn, and concentrates. Good food has real ingredients. Some common brands that offer quality foods are KENT Platinum, Hikari, and one of my favorites, HBH Super Soft Frozen food alternative, which comes in different kinds. These are a little more expensive, but your fish will show the difference.There are also many other good brands. Make sure you rotate these foods since they are very strong.
-Do not buy individual fish if they are meant to be kept in schools! Sometimes fish become very nasty when they are the only of their kind. I learned this when I bought only one serpae tetra. He became a nasty tail biter and terrorized my other fish. However, if the fish is a non aggressive species, this can work.
-BEGINNERS! DO NOT BUY AGGRESSIVE FISH!! This is a common mistake. Tiger barbs and convicts are often a downfall because they are mixed with non aggressive species which are then terrorized. For beginners, I reccommend tetras. They are hardier than the platys and mollies that are usually reccommended. Stay away from baby neon tetras. Danios are also a good choice for beginners.
-DO NOT BUY SCALELESS/ delicate FISH! unless you have exellent water quality. Under this category i have built up quite a list of failures
-loaches, more specifically clown and dojo
-“shark catfish” also known as tricolor cat, white-tipped cat, columbian shark cat. These are really cool fish with lots of personality, but are about as hardy as a butterfly. If you can keep them alive, they grow huge
-algae eating fish- mostly catfish- do not buy unless you actually have a lot of algae in your tank. If you have greedy fish, the algae wafers for the catfish will be eaten by the other fish and your cat will starve. I’ve had this happen.
– red-tailed black shark -fragile, but very cool. When healthy they will be jet black with a bright red tail. Their colors will fade if the water is bad, which makes them a very good indicator of water quality. These fish need vegetable content in their diet to be healthy.
– THE “HILIGHTER FISH”!!! These are those small fish that you see at the petstore that come in all diffrent unnatural hilighter colors. Do not buy them. These fish have been injected with dye that is bad for the fish. Over time the dye breaks up and shortens the life of the fish. I’m not saying they arent’ hardy, but it is just a cruel practice. I’m sorry I dont know their real name.
So there you have it. I hope some of this information helps. If you have any other questions about ammonia, ph, or anything else. feel free to ask. I’ll anwser the best I can.